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Career: Market Researcher

A Day in the life of a Market Researcher

“People will tell you market research is a science, and there are scientific parts to it, but when it’s done well, it’s an art,” wrote one market researcher. Market researchers prepare studies and surveys, analyze demographic information and purchasing histories, review the factors that affect product demand, and make recommendations to manufacturing and sales forces about the market for their product. This multifaceted job requires financial, statistical, scientific, and aesthetic skills, as well as common sense. Market researchers work on projects that proceed in stages. At the beginning of a project, a market researcher may spend three weeks with other market researchers designing a survey and testing it on small samples of their intended population. In later stages, they may define demographics, distribute the survey, and collect and assemble data. In the final stages, they may analyze survey responses to uncover consumer preferences or needs that have not yet been identified. Like all scientific experiments, “the assumptions we make are key. If we don’t get those clear at the beginning, it’s going to affect our entire study,” wrote one respondent. Those people who specialize in public opinion surveys are particularly careful about how they phrase their questions, as a single misplaced modifier can dramatically affect the meaning of a question and, likewise, its responses. Market researchers work on their own and on teams. Many researchers find it difficult to adjust to working on a team. As one respondent said, “There are a lot of opinions about what constitutes the perfect survey. Four market researchers are going to have four different opinions.”This diversity of opinion, while celebrated in the world at large, can make for difficult strategizing sessions and even more difficult interpretations of results. Good market researchers are careful listeners and remain flexible in their assumptions. They have to be good at communicating their results; a miscommunication between the market research department and management can lead to a financial disaster.

Paying Your Dues

An entry-level market research position requires only an undergraduate degree. Employers look favorably on a degree in marketing and courses in statistics, mathematics, survey design, advertising, and psychology. Graduate degrees in marketing, business, or statistics are becoming more common among individuals in management positions. Work experience that demonstrates a creative intellect and the ability to work on teams is also well received. Prospective market researchers should be aware that early jobs in the field entail plenty of menial work—copying, proofreading, inputting data, and the like. Individuals who are willing to carry out these entry-level tasks go on to fill positions of responsibility.

Associated Careers

Market researchers have statistics and survey skills, and many of them acquire business and production skills while employed by companies or lobbies. Market researchers who change careers usually become executives, advertising managers, demographic analysts (for the Census Bureau), and statisticians. Market researchers do well in any position that combines numerical analysis with interpersonal skills; many of them become economists or bankers.

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